Instagram for Children and What Fb Is aware of Concerning the Results of Social Media

On Monday, four days before a Senate Commerce Committee hearing titled Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram and Mental Health Harms, Facebook announced that it was pausing development of a new product – an Instagram app for kids ages ten and twelve years. (Facebook currently limits its products to users 13 and older.) The Times cited the company’s decision to “stop developing the app. . . a rare reversal for Facebook ”, but according to Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, Facebook is not giving up the app but is working to make it more acceptable to parents and policymakers and to demonstrate“ the value and importance of this project for ” younger teenagers online today. ”Critics see the move as an attempt to appease Congressmen to avert sensible regulation.

Internal documents from Facebook suggest that the company is fully aware of Instagram’s harmful impact on teenagers.Photo from Adobe Stock

Instagram, Facebook’s popular photo-sharing app, which the company acquired for $ 1 billion in 2012 to bolster its presence on mobile devices, is valued at around $ 100 billion today and is central to the company’s continued growth Meaning. Still, parents and child development experts, among others, have long argued that the app, which is a curated, Photoshop-edited version of reality, harms young people’s self-esteem, self-confidence, and overall mental health. One young person told researchers at the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health in a report published in 2017: “Instagram easily makes girls and women feel like their bodies are not good enough when people add filters and edit their pictures to make them ‘perfect’ look. Another user reported that “Bullying on Instagram has led me to attempt suicide and also self-harm. Both of these caused me to have depressive episodes and anxiety. ”According to the Wall Street Journal, more than forty percent of Instagram users are under the age of 23.

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, chairman of the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security Subcommittee, and his Republican colleague, Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, convened the hearing Thursday. In August, they asked Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, to release the company’s internal research into the mental health impact of its platforms on young people. Facebook has been conducting such research through online polls, focus groups, and large-scale polls for several years, but the company turned down the senators’ request. (A Facebook spokesperson said the research is proprietary and is designed to foster “an open and open dialogue” within the company.) A few weeks later, some of these studies were added to a cache of internal Facebook documents sent to the Wall Street leaked Journal published and published as part of a series of articles called “The Facebook Files” written by a team of reporters led by Jeff Horwitz. As the Journal reports, the documents show that the company is fully aware that Instagram has harmful effects on teens. For example, a PowerPoint slide created by Facebook researchers in 2019 states that Instagram makes body image problems worse in one in three teenage girls. Another research presentation dated March 2020, posted on Facebook’s internal message board and viewed by reporters, found that “Thirty-two percent of teenage girls said that Instagram made them feel worse about themselves felt her body. Teenagers also told Facebook researchers that the app contributed to their depression and anxiety, a complaint that a 2019 corporate document stated was “unsolicited and consistent across groups.” Young Instagram users also said they felt addicted to the app and didn’t have the resources to limit its use.

In a post on the Facebook blog in response to the journal, Pratiti Raychoudhury, the company’s research director, wrote that the body image statistics quoted as presented are misleading and that other research shows that Instagram is indeed helpful for teens. Zuckerberg made a similar claim earlier this year during a congressional hearing, saying the app could help children “stay connected,” and there is evidence that young people benefited from contacting themselves during the pandemic lockdown turning to social media to ease their isolation. Still, as Blumenthal told the Journal’s reporters, “Facebook appears to be taking a page from Big Tobacco’s textbook – targeting teenagers with potentially dangerous products while covering up the science.” He and Blackburn suspended the hearing shortly after Publication of journal articles. Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global security chief, is supposed to testify.

In any case, even for a company that spends nearly twenty million dollars a year lobbying lawmakers, The Facebook Files should be disastrous. The series also reports that a little-known Facebook program called “XCheck” or “Cross Check” exempts high profile accounts of celebrities, politicians, influencers, and those who may be a PR problem from the company’s content restrictions when their posts were deleted, growing to almost six million users by 2020. In June, according to the Journal, the company announced to its oversight board that XCheck was only used in “a few” substantive decisions. (A company spokesperson said Facebook made “significant strides in addressing the challenges of the program.”) The series also reports that, despite efforts to contain them, Facebook employees have reported some drug cartels and human traffickers who are still openly using both operate Facebook and Instagram, and that Facebook continues to spread misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. (On Tuesday, The Times reported that Facebook groups promoting the use of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin to treat COVID are generating thousands of interactions daily.) And the series goes on to report that the company sometimes order repressive regimes in fast-growing emerging markets to silence their critics for fear of losing access to these markets. In particular, the company restricted “access to dissenting political content deemed illegal in exchange for the Vietnamese government to end its practice of slowing down Facebook’s local servers”. Reporters note that, according to a former Facebook employee who worked in Asia, the company agreed to the practice “because Vietnam is a rapidly growing advertising market.” (Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president of global affairs, wrote that the journal’s articles “deliberately misrepresented what we were trying to do and conveyed outrageously wrong motives to the leadership and employees of Facebook.”)

Crucially, however, Facebook’s placement of foreign political leaders is akin to its plan to create an Instagram app for kids. Facebook executives value growth, so they need to find new markets, both geographically – for example Vietnam – and demographically, such as children under the age of 13. In the latest issue of The Facebook Files, released Tuesday, Horwitz and Georgia Wells write that “The company formed a team to study teenagers, set a three-year goal to develop more products for them , and strategy papers on the subject has commissioned long-term business opportunities presented by these potential users. In one presentation, she wondered if there might be a way to involve children during play dates. “Why do we care about tweens?” said a 2020 document. “You are a valuable but untapped audience.” “(On the same day, the company said this study was commissioned to create” safer and age-appropriate options for children. “)

When Senators Blumenthal and Blackburn announced the hearing on Thursday, they said the committee would “use every resource we have to investigate what Facebook knew and when they knew – including finding more documents and tracking it of testimony ”. On Tuesday, they confirmed that a whistleblower who supported the committee’s investigation would testify in Congress on October 5. It doesn’t help the company that, as Politico reported last week, on August 6, two groups of Facebook shareholders filed amended lawsuits against Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and other Facebook board members. (Shareholders originally filed a lawsuit in 2020, and the new filings include information from documents they received as a result.) Among many lawsuits, one of the lawsuits alleges the $ 5 billion fine the Federal Trade Commission is against Facebook imposed in 2019 was in reality an overpayment for its role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal – in return to ensure that Zuckerberg is not held personally liable. Five billion dollars is the highest fine ever imposed by the FTC for invading consumer privacy. (At the time of the original filing, a Facebook spokesperson said the lawsuit was unfounded; the company declined to comment this week.

On Monday, hours after Facebook announced it was pausing work on the children’s Instagram app, Blumenthal and three other Democratic officials, including Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, urged the company to “abandon this project entirely.” This was a plea, not a reservation, because so far only supplication was available to them. But perhaps Congress will move beyond the usual performative theatrics of punishing big tech executives in the hearing room and begin creating robust laws to curb the antisocial effects of social media. The evidence is before that.

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